Cardiff Bay [Nick Fewings on Unsplash]

Welsh Government plans for statutory registration scheme

Wales: The Welsh Government has announced plans to shake up the country’s tourism industry by introducing a statutory registration scheme for all visitor accommodation.

Unveiled by Dawn Bowden, the Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, the registration and licensing scheme proposals would cover a range of visitor accommodation options, enabling lodging providers to effectively prove that they are meeting the necessary safety and quality requirements.

The Welsh Government expects the scheme to “enhance the visitor experience and visitor safety expectations in Wales by ensuring anyone who lets out visitor accommodation meets a relevant set of standards”.

The prospective legislation is set to be introduced to the Senedd [the Welsh Parliament] in Cardiff by the end of this year.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “Many parts of the world have already adopted licensing, certification or registration schemes across their visitor accommodation sectors and the Welsh Government has been considering best practice to design one that is simple and easy to use for accommodation providers in Wales.

“Across the UK, Northern Ireland has had a certification scheme established for all visitor accommodation since 1992, with Scotland having recently introduced a licensing scheme for short-term lets. The UK Government is also pursuing a registration approach for short-term lets.

“In Wales, the first phase will be a statutory registration scheme for all accommodation providers, which will – for the first time – provide a register on the broad range of visitor accommodation available across the country and will include details on who is operating in the sector, where they are operating, and how they are operating,” it added.

The proposals follow a public consultation and engagement with the travel and tourism industry in Wales, as well as a survey in which 89 per cent of respondents said that safety was a prime consideration for their choice of accommodation. Concerns were also voiced about the impact that short-term lets have on available housing supply in communities across Wales.

UKHospitality Cymru executive director David Chapman welcomed the plans, telling The Caterer: “The Welsh Government is absolutely right to create a level playing field and require all visitor accommodation to operate safely and to appropriate standards. I’m pleased that short-term lets will be brought up to the standards of the wider accommodation sector and the introduction of a registration scheme is a positive step to develop a proper understanding of where these businesses are.

“The eventual move to a licensing scheme to ensure short-term lets are compliant with safety standards is something we support, provided there is no additional red tape or cost placed on well-established and already heavily regulated businesses such as hotels and holiday parks. These businesses are already subject to rigorous health and safety inspections, so the focus of the scheme should be on ensuring short-term lets are complying with regulations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Andy Fenner, CEO of the UKShort Term Accommodation Association [STAA], said: “The Welsh Government has swooped in ahead of its counterpart in Westminster to deliver a registration scheme worthy of the name. The most important aspect of the Welsh plan is that all visitor accommodation will be required by law to register, not just holiday lets.

“For the first time in Welsh history, policymakers, officials and residents will have a clear picture of how big the hospitality sector is in each area, how it is constituted, and how big an economic contribution each type of provider is likely making.

“Moves to restrict any part of the tourist accommodation sector will, in future, be based on hard facts, not rumour and innuendo, giving decisions a proper basis. This is a really positive step forward for tourism in Wales and one that we hope is replicated in England, which will be the last region of the UK to see a registration scheme introduced,” he added.

The landscape across the UK & Northern Ireland is becoming clearer as governments introduce fresh legislation and schemes to regulate the industry and control its growth.

Scotland and Northern Ireland already have licensing and certification schemes in operation, while in England, the government launched a consultation into introducing its own mandatory registration scheme for short-term lets last April.

Last month, a report into short-term lets and the visitor economy by the All-Party Parliamentary Group [APPG] for Hospitality and Tourism called for a “national and mandatory” registration scheme that would “ensure a level playing field for accommodation operators”.

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